Monday, May 31, 2010

Social E-Commerce is More Marketing Than Commerce

It isn't clear yet whether social commerce sites such as,, and are a fad or a permanent trend in e-commerce. These sites offer discounts to groups of buyers that may or may not depend on how many people respond to a specific offer.

Typically, a group coupon site operates in multiple cities and features one merchant's discount per day per city in an e-mail to subscribers.

Merchants set a minimum number of customers who must sign up for an offer to work.

If the deal doesn't get enough interest in the allotted period, would-be buyers get their money back. But some 90 percent of Groupon deals do go through. So shoppers may feel they need to rush to sign up before the quota fills, which generates a marketing buzz for the stores and sites.

But the social commerce deals might be seen primarily as marketing campaigns, more than a way to move merchandise. The websites typically give retailers half the money they get selling the deals. That means there is little to no profit from a deal.

What the deals succeed in doing is creating an opportunity to attract new customes, though.

A half-off coupon, for instance, typically brings the retailer just one-fourth the price it usually charges for a given item and could end up costing the business money.

Real Heroes

We thank you.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bandwidth and Revenue: Something's Gotta Give

Fully 73 percent of industry executives surveyed by Telcordia expect to see either network-enforced hard limits, tiered services or a combination of both to manage data traffic.

The survey of industry professionals across more than 75 countries by Telcordia simply confirms that data traffic, and therefore network cost, is increasing faster than revenue to pay for supplying that bandwidth.

"CSPs need to insert themselves in the mobile broadband value chain and leverage billing and charging assets to manage network costs and to add innovative value-added offers and services to both subscribers and over-the-top content third parties," says Pat McCarthy, Telcordia VP.

"All-you-can-eat data plans are not a sustainable business model, and policy-based bandwidth management and real-time charging provide CSPs and their subscribers with the necessary flexibility to try new services while keeping costs in line," says McCarthy.


HTC Evo Running Android 2.2

Some people are going to find the HTC Evo's "massive screen" annoying, to the extent that it makes the device bigger (slightly bigger than the comparable Verizon HTC Incredible, but it has some advantages.

The Evo doesn't use the OLED screen found on the Nexus One, but instead uses a TFT display which means the Evo will be easier to use in daylight.

more here

What is Yahoo's Strategy?

I admit I'm not sure I describe, with certainty, Yahoo or AOL strategies. To be sure, I'm not sure I could adequately describe Google's fundamental strategy, either. Maybe it doesn't matter whether I understand it. But it typically does matter when a company is a bit fuzzy about telling its own story. You can be the judge of whether this is clear enough.

link to video

New Skype for the iPhone

A new version of Skype for the iPhone supports voice calls over 3G. I don't know about you, but I still find voice over 3G a challenging and non-predictable experience.

A recent call I was on was flaky enough that we reverted back to the public switched network.

WiMax 2: 100 Mbps Downstream Bandwidth

A second-generation standard for WiMAX now under development by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers promises 100 Mbps downstream bandwidth.

The 802.16m standard will significantly boost first-generation WiMAX speeds. Sprint's Xohm network generally supports speeds between 3.7 Mbps to 5 Mbps.

Significantly, the speed boost will be possible over the same distances WiMAX now operates over. WiMAX covers about 31 square miles from each access point.

Web Browser Preferred Over Content Apps On The iPad

"I've tried a few content apps on the iPad, including the much discussed Wired app. But I don't like reading content via apps on the iPad and I gravitate to the Safari browser," says Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures partner.

Among the reasons: the apps treat pages as monolithic objects so users cannot cut and paste text, follow links to other content apps, keep multiple pages open, use a common interface, or connect with social media.

Content apps do not allow use of search functions and cannot be aggreated using apps such as techmeme.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Are Location-Based Services All Hype?

Location is a feature, not a business. Real-time and location-based marketing in all its forms might be the huge business many expect.But much attention at the moment is focused on the "research project" aspects of location, and not on the crucial issues of how to sustain the use of such features on a wide basis over time, and how to make it useful for average users. We aren't there yet.

Some Spend 48.5 Hours a Week Playing Console and PC Games

About four percent of gamers spend 48.5 hours a week playing games on consoles and PCs, according to NPD Group. Overall, U.S. gamers ages 2 and older spend 13 hours per week playing games, up from 12.3 hours in 2009.

Hours spent playing both console and PC games showed a marked increase over last year's study, with console games increasing nine percent and PC games increasing six percent. The number of hours gamers spent playing portable games saw a decline of 16 percent.

The average age of gamers increased slightly over last year from 31 years of age in the 2009 study to 32 years in this year’s study. Avid PC Gamers and Offline PC Gamers, comprising 11 percent and 8 percent of the gaming population, respectively, are the oldest segments with an average age for both of 42 years.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Leading Indicator Falls to 39-Week Low

A measure of future U.S. economic growth fell to a 39-week low in the latest week, pointing to a slowdown in economic growth, The Economic Cycle Research Institute, a New York-based independent forecasting group, says.

As reported by Reuters, the ECRI's "Weekly Leading Index" fell to 125.6 in the week ended May 21, down from a revised 127.2 the previous week, originally reported as 127.3, the lowest level since Aug. 21, 2009, when the index stood at 125.3.

The index's annualized growth rate tumbled to a 47-week low of 5.1 percent from 9.0 percent a week ago. That's the worst level since June 26, 2009, when it stood at 4.6 percent.

'The downturn in WLI growth evident since early 2010 has recently intensified, so it should be no surprise when U.S. economic growth slows noticeably in the months ahead,' says Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of ECRI."

That doesn't necessarily mean we are headed for the dreaded double-dip recession, but it is not good news. Drat.

New York Dead Zones Are Just a Fact of Life

For the 20 million people living in the greater New York area, spotty cellular service is a constant source of frustration. To document the extent of the problem, The Wall Street Journal examined data on dropped and unsuccessful calls compiled by the Nielsen Co., which sends out equipment-filled vans to make 140,000 test calls a year across the five boroughs, Long Island, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.

The results raise a pressing question: Why is the most populous metropolitan area in the U.S. plagued with dead zones?

Carriers deserve only part of the blame, the Wall Street Journal says.  The city is one of their highest-profile markets, and even as they cut capital spending nationwide during the recession, they kept budgets high in New York, even if that spending didn't always keep up with the pace of smartphone sales.

Ask the people who build and maintain the city's networks, and they'll give you a dozen alternative excuses: Too many people. Too many buildings. Too much reflective glass. Too much water. Each plays a role, the Wall Street Journal says.

It all adds up to wireless dead zones dotting the city and its surrounding suburbs.

Take the West Side Highway, a notorious trouble spot where Nielsen recorded eight failed calls up and down Manhattan. There, phones get a signal only on one side of the road, from cell towers high atop office buildings. (The Hudson River is on the other side.) So when there's a hiccup with a connection to the cell tower on the Manhattan side of the river, there's no other tower to back it up, and the call drops.

Dropped calls also happen because of quirks in the way carriers have set up their networks. For example, AT&T Inc. routes calls south of 59th Street in Manhattan to a switch downtown. North of 59th, calls go to a facility in Westchester. So when an AT&T customer crosses 59th, calls can get dropped as the network reshuffles from one switch to the other. Nielsen recorded three fails on or near that dividing line. AT&T declined to discuss coverage at 59th in further detail.

Sometimes, there just aren't enough cell sites to handle the load.  But it always is difficult to get authority to put up new towers, anyplace. In New York, it is harder because of the fragmented ownership of buildings. Outside New York, it often is possible to negotiate once with an owner of hundreds of buildings.

The upshot? Service issues are likely to continue to be an irritant.

$431 Average Unlocked Mobile Phone Cost

The average price of an unlocked mobile phone in April 2010 was $431.49, up from a March average of $387.22. ABI Research found the average subsidized April smartphone price from retailers (not mobile operators) to be $43.64.

In contrast, the subsidized average price available from operators (the big “top four” plus three Tier Two operators) was $117.08. The price differential between the largest four operators is about 18 percent.

The point, if you remember your college economics, is that lower prices for any product lead to higher demand. 

$100 to $150 Android Tablets Coming This Year

Via Technologies Inc., the Taiwanese computer-processor company, expects $100 tablet devices containing its chips to reach the U.S. in the second half of 2010, offering a cheaper alternative to the iPad.

About five different models, ranging in price from $100 to $150, will be available.

Technology Helps Workers Do "More with Less:" It Has To

Nearly one in two Americans (48 percent) who use technology in their everyday jobs say that they are now required to do more work with fewer resources due to the current economic climate. As an example, nearly one third (30 percent) feel that they need to stay connected to work 24/7, even during weekends, breaks or holidays, according to a new survey by Intercall.

That is likely one reason why the United States has the highest percentage of mobile workers in its workforce, according to February 2010 data from IDC, with 75.5 percent of the workforce, or 119.7 million people, expected to be mobile by 2013.

And 79 percent of them plan on taking their work-related devices with them on vacation, according to  Osterman Research.

Fully 72 percent say that advanced technology, such as conferencing and collaboration tools, enables them to work faster, better and improves their morale – because they see the company providing them with the right resources and tools to "do more with less," according to Intercall.

One in two American workers (48 percent) report being constantly required to do more with less, while 39 percent report that they’ve been doing the job of two people because of the impact of the economic recession, Intercall reports. The issue, of course, is if, when and how that will change in the future.

One in two workers say that taking time off of work is increasingly challenging, while one in three
workers say that they feel like they need to stay connected to their work 24/7.

The Intercall survey was conducted online among a national sample of 2500 Americans 18+.

Interall survey results here

see related article here

LTE is About Cost of Providing Service, As Much as Bandwidth

The cost of carrying one megabyte of data over its LTE network would be half to one third the cost of carrying the same data over the company’s current 3G network, Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless’ CEO, says. That is going to be good news both for users and mobile services providers.

Bandwidth services providers universally need to improve the efficiency of their networks, since increased data consumption typically involves non-linear revenue effects. In other words, providers earn less money, on a revenue-per-bit basis, the higher the amount of bandwidth they provide.

And though consumers will not likely appreciate a gradual shift to buckets of usage, so long as the plans, pricing and consumption patterns are relatively closely matched, people can adapt. People are used to buckets of voice and text messaging, for example.

But key to crafting such plans is that they are viewed as fair. A lower cost, higher capacity network that works better for key applications such as voice and video is a likely prerequisite.

User patterns also are changing. Unlimited plans work quite well for users and providers when consumption is low. But most users consume more bandwidth over time, driven especially by video use, which requires an order of magnitude to two orders of magnitude more capacity than voice, for example.

Verizon's coming shift to buckets of usage for multiple devices also makes sense. As users shift to use of broadband for multiple devices, they will not prefer paying for access to each discrete device. Also, usage profiles vary by device.

Cameras and e-book readers will not typically demand much bandwidth. Nor will voice applications. Smartphone web browsing will consume more, but smartphone data consumption typically is far less than from a PC. Blending usage from a range of devices, and allowing consumers to pay once, for access on all the devices, will save users money and provide more value while at the same time allowing service providers to offer service on terms that are sustainable.

Wi-Fi-Capable Version of Skype for Smartphones Coming Later This Year

A fully-featured Android client from Skype will be available "later this year," Skype says, and that version will include video support and be usable across all mobile networks, unlike the more restricted mode Skype now finds itself using on the Apple iPhone and Verizon Droid, for example, meaning among other things that Wi-Fi support will be available.

That isn't supported today on AT&T or Verizon networks and devices, although there may be times when users are happy their Skype voice sessions on a Droid actually are laundered through the Verizon voice network, for reasons of stability and voice quality.

The move will not dramatically alter the economics of mobile voice services, at least at first. But there isn't much doubt that mobile VoIP will, over time, erode the amount of money and profit margin voice represents for the mobile industry, forcing mobile operators to change their revenue and business models, just as fixed-line operators now are having to adjust.

iPad is What You Want, Not What You Need

Though we are far from knowing the ultimate success or impact of the tablet PC movement, there is some evidence that Apple is, in fact, creating yet another new market, rather than simply reshaping or displacing an older market.

Gartner Group analyst Carolina Milanesi says "I am also more convinced that this is a device that you want and not a device that you need." That is an instructive comment, as it suggests users may be finding the iPad less a full substitute for a notebook PC or netbook and more a "different" device that might be used in different ways.

"Between my iPhone and my MacBook Pro I have to consciously decide to use my iPad to do anything but read a book, which is the only thing I cannot do with the Pro and I would rather not do on the iPhone because of the screen."

The use case here is, as Apple hoped, something potentially different from a smartphone or a notebook PC.

How are Telcos Like the London Times?

"Newspapers have found that chasing page views in the hope that advertising will save them is hopeless," says John Gapper, Financial Times columnist. And the newspaper industry's encounter with the Internet is very-much akin to the telecom, publishing, music and retailing industry's similar encounter: aside from removing a good deal of profit margin from the legacy business, the new Internet ecosystem will force providers to embrace new revenue models that supplement the traditional sources.

Where newspapers have had two sources--subscribers and advertisers--in the future they might require additional sources. Think about Bloomberg, for instance, which offers business information services but also television, radio, the Internet and printed publications.

Likewise, where most telecom providers have in the past had only one major revenue source, namely subscribers, in the future they likely must create additional revenue streams by providing valuable services to business partners, thus becoming "two-sided" or "multiple revenue stream" operations.

The point is that the Internet undermines the old revenue ecosystem and demands creation of a new model. It typically is the characteristics of success using the new model that remain murky.

Giving up on Internet-driven readership, News Corp. will soon put The London-based Times behind a firewall and even will prevent Google and other search engines from indexing the paywall content. television, radio, the Internet and printed publications.

The point is that News Corp has concluded there is no viable business model in the new Internet distribution system, save the closed model that essentially retrenches from wide Internet distribution.

Some might argue that is fundamentally what will happen with most service provider revenue from voice services as well. It will not prove viable except as a more-limited service more focused on some higher-paying customers, as much traffic bleeds off to free and low-cost alternatives made possible by the broadband accessed Internet.

News Corp estimates that the marginal revenue from an occasional browser is less than one tenth of a penny a year. Group M, the media buying agency of WPP, refers to the bulk of news surfers as “useless tourists” who not only pay nothing but have little advertising potential.

“Free distribution of premium content is like eating your babies," says Group M. "You will give value away until you go bust.” It's recommened strategy to avoid what it calls a “permanent oversupply of digital inventory” on the open web is by using a paywall to “lift the publisher out of remnant inventory and restore a much smaller but aggregated audience.”

Trade wide distribution for a smaller number of customers willing to pay, in other words. "Nice to have" must become "must have" for the strategy to work.

News Corp seems clearly to have concluded there is little money in online news, given the number of "free" providers. Providers in other industries, including telecommunications, will face different tactical issues, but the same strategic issue.

Over time, choices will have to be made about where it is possible to provide value, and where revenue streams therefore can be created and sustained. Willy nilly embrace of new channels likely will work no better than it has for most newspapers that have gone "online."


Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm Afraid Greasy Screens are Just a New Fact of LIfe

Touchscreens on tablets, smartphones, MP3 players and all sorts of other gadgets just seem to be the way things are going. It's just a new maintenance chore we have to deal with.

Sprint Will Hit it Out of the Park with Evo

I think Sprint is going to hit it out of the park with the Sprint Evo.

Mobile Ads Up to 5X More Effective Than Online, Study Finds

Mobile ad campaign norms are four-and-a-half to five times more effective than online norms on measures of unaided awareness, aided awareness, ad awareness, message association, brand favorability and purchase intent, according to InsightExpress.

InsightExpress also says mobile media outperforms online media in ability to drive purchase intent (170 percent increase) and brand favorability (85 percent increase).

50 Million Femtocells by 2014?

More than 50 percent of mobile data sessions originate indoors, say researchers at the Yankee Group.

And since 40 percent to 60 percent of mobile operator operational expense is attributable to backhaul transmission costs, Jennifer Pigg, Yankee Group analyst, expects data offload solutions, ranging from femtocells to Wi-Fi,  to be a growing area of interest.

Indeed, 60 carriers are in femto trials, with 13 commitments and nine commercial services already launched (AT&T, Vodafone, SFR, China Unicom, DoCoMo, SoftBank, Optimus, StarHub, Sprint and Verizon).

Acer to Market Tablet and E-Reader

Acer Inc. will start selling its first e-reader later this summer and also a touchscreen tablet computer in September or October, according to the Wall Street Journal. The e-book reader features a six-inch display, while the tablet PC will feature a seven-inch screen, and is powered by Android.

The interesting angle here is that consumers will have a choice of form factors. Apple's iPad uses a screen that is almost 10 inches diagonally, while Dell will sell a device with a five-inch screen. Acer is in the middle with a seven-inch screen on its tablet.

The issue, beyond the broad issue of whether tablet PCs represent a new PC segment or a new device category, partly hinges on what people decide they want to do with such devices.

Smaller screen devices such as the Dell might be seen as functionally similar to smartphones, in terms of portability. Large-screen devices cannot be conveniently carried in pockets or purses, and likely will compete more with netbooks or notebooks.

The Acer e-reader, dubbed "LumiRead," has a six-inch display and is equipped with two-gigabytes of flash memory, which allow it to store up to 1,500 books. Acer, which shipped more PCs than any company except Hewlett-Packard Co. in the first quarter, will sell its e-reader first in the U.S., China and Germany.

Why E-Book Readers are Like Netbooks

In some ways, e-book readers are in a situation similar to netbooks, which is to say, they both are product categories that face substitute products. E-book readers are going to be pressured by tablet PCs and even smartphones, while netbooks are going to be pressured from one side by tablets such as the iPad and notebooks whose better features and prices will continue to make them suitable substitutes for netbooks in perhaps seven out of 10 cases.

According to the latest research from Informa Telecoms & Media e-reader sales are expected to peak at 14 million in 2013, before falling by seven percent in 2014 as the segment faces increased  competition from  a wide range of consumer electronic devices.

Multi-function devices notably mobile phones and tablet-form-factor computing devices are the chief competing types of devices e-book readers will face.

This is likely to lead to a segmentation of the e-reader market into two groups; low-price, low-feature models and higher-price devices with advanced features, Informa predicts.

In order to survive, there are a number of approaches that vendors can take. They can develop low-cost e-readers with minimal features that can be used in conjunction with a PC or USB dongle to access additional content. E-readers like the Kobo ($148), may appeal to the cost-conscious reader, for example, Informa suggests.

Alternatively, high-end e-readers will start to resemble tablet computing devices. These will in effect become more like smartbooks than e-readers. Early steps in this direction include Barnes & Noble's latest software update for the Nook which adds games and a more open web browsing functionality.

Many e-reader companies are already looking to develop an electronic reading platform, initially based on their e-reader devices, but that will extend across e-readers, mobile phones, netbooks, note-books and desktop PCs.

The point is that netbook and e-book product segments likely will change as more tablets and smartphones provide end-user functionality that competes with e-book readers and netbooks.

Speakeasy Free Phone Offer Extended

Speakeasy has extended its "free phone" offer, which the company launched in March to apparent great success.

The company has been offering free Polycom SoundPoint IP 321 VoIP-enabled phones to new business customers who purchase unlimited or global Hosted Voice calling plans and have a minimum of five lines.

The promotion was so successful that Speakeasy has extended the promotion through the end of June.

Any way you look at it, merchandising tends to work.

World's 2nd-Largest WiMAX Network Switches to LTE

Russia's Yota network, which connects 300,000 people over WiMAX technology, is switching to LTE, and plans to spend $2 billion migrating its network to the different air interface.

Backed heavily by Intel, which hoped to make WiMAX as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi, the tide turned in favor of LTE when virtually all the world's mobile service providers decided to back LTE instead of WiMAX.

WiMAX had a headstart getting to market, but LTE now has closed the gap. Early adopters argued that they had to get to market fast, so WiMAX made sense. But the rival LTE air interface now stands to garner so much production volume that it now makes more sense, going forward, even for early adopters such as Yota.

Yota should be able to upgrade using software, some argue, as the Samsung-supplied base stations Yota uses can support both FDD-LTE and TD-LTE, and Yota uses spectrum well suited to the time division variant of LTE.

The new LTE network will start in Kazan, Novosibirsk and Samara, with Moscow and St. Petersburg to follow by the end of 2011. The 15 cities previously scheduled for WiMAX deployment will go straight to LTE.

Buckets for Verizon LTE, No "Unlimited" Plans

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam says Verizon's 4G network will not offer unlimited broadband access plans, but will instead feature "buckets of usage" similar to the way most consumers now buy voice service and text messaging services.

Want 105 Mbps? Comcast Will Sell it to You

Want 105 Mbps Internet access? You soon will be able to buy it from Comcast Corp. "Extreme 105" will cost $200 per month after an installation fee of $249. This service is expected to be available in early June. The new “Extreme 105” will support 105 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speed.

Comcast predicts that all of its residential networks will be upgraded to for such service by mid-2010.

The existing residential-tier “Extreme” offers 50 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream speed for a price of $99.95 per month.

Japanese Consumers Really Are Different

Japan often is looked to as a hothouse for new consumer electronics trends, especially in mobile, that migrate to Europe and then to the United States. There is much truth to that observation, but it is harder to explain why that might be the case.

Some observers would say Japanese consumers actually behave differently from consumers in other parts of the world. Consider that while Japanese companies remain major global players in flat-panel televisions, digital cameras and videogame systems, they have almost no presence outside of Japan in personal computers, mobile phones or home appliances, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Some analysts say a good part of the reason is that Japanese buyers are detail-oriented and prefer products packed with features. Furthermore, they will read thick instruction manuals from cover  to cover, and seem to prefer products made in Japan.

Most buyers outside of Japan expect new products to be simple and intuitive, and they are less concerned about a product's point of origin.

"The consumer in Japan thinks very differently than the global consumer," says Atul Goyal, an analyst at brokerage firm CLSA. "Once Japanese companies try to sell things to a global market, they need to understand how a global consumer reacts."

So it is something of a sea change that the Apple iPad seems to be resonating with Japanese consumers, as the iPad emphasizes ease of use.

Netbooks Squeezed Between iPads and Laptops

A new survey by Retrevo suggests netbook sales are getting pressure from iPads and notebooks, and the iPad might have gotten as much as 30 percent of potential netbook sales so far this year.

The Retrevo survey also suggests that consumers who were debating buying either an iPad or a netbook have decisively decided to buy an iPad. According to Retrevo, 78 percent of respondents who indicated they were waiving between an iPad and a netbook ultimately decided to buy an iPad.

Laptops are not as “portable” as netbooks but are getting cheaper. Of those consumers who wrestled with the decision to buy a netbook or laptop, 65 percent chose the laptop and 35 percent chose a netbook over a laptop.

Looking ahead, about 35 percent of consumers who say they are now considering a laptop or netbook purchase over the coming year say they are leaning toward a netbook over a laptop, while 65 percent are leaning toward a laptop over a netbook.

Retrevo therefore predicts netbook sales will get squeezed from two sides and will not be able to maintain past growth rates.

None of this yet settles the question of whether the iPad is "merely" a new form factor for mobile PCs or a new product category.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Buy Dawn. Help Birds in Gulf

Help birds. Buy Dawn. Then go to http.://

86% of UK Youngsters Own a Mobile;' 73% Own Their Own Books

About 86 percent of young people in the United Kingdom own a mobile phone, while only 73 percent have books of their own, a study by National Literacy Trust suggests.

The study of over 17,000 young people reveals a strong link between both young people’s reading ability and access to books at home, the National Literacy Trust says.

270 Degrees of Rotation for Android 2.2 Devices

Android version 2.2 supports 270 degrees of device rotation, with the display adjusting as the orientation changes, either left or right.

New Dell "Streak" Tablet

I have no idea how well this new tablet driven by Android and featuring a five-inch screen will fare, compared to the nearly-10-inch screen on the iPad. But it will be very interesting to see whether the vastly-different form factor is the same, or a different use case.

Apple Tops Microsoft Equity Value for First Time

You knew it would happen one day, and on May 26, 2010, it finally did: Apple's equity value eclipsed that of Microsoft, at least for the day. At the close of trading, a small decline in Apple shares combined with a 4% drop in Microsoft’s stock to leave Apple’s market value ahead — at nearly $223 billion compared with about $219 billion for Microsoft.

 Over the past year, Apple’s share price has nearly doubled to more than $244, as the computer and device maker has ridden a wave of success with its iPhone and new iPad.

The movement of Apple to the top position in market capitalization among technology companies perhaps reflects its growing stature in emerging product categories and services, ranging from new devices to mobile advertising.

Presumably, that is why regulators suddenly have taken an interest in Apple's market dominance as well.

Facebook Updates Privacy Rules

Basically, users will have more control over their own sharing.

Who is More Careful About Personal Information:Younger or Older People?

Though it is not intuitive, younger users might be more careful and active about curating their online information than older users are, a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggests.

Internet users between the ages of 18 to 29 are more likely than older adults to say they take steps to limit the amount of personal information available about them online. About 44 percent of young adult Internet users say this, compared with 33 percent of Internet users between the ages of 30 to 49, 25 percent of those 50 to 64 and 20 percent of those ages 65 and older.

Also, 71 percent of social networking users ages 18 to 29 have changed the privacy settings on their profile to limit what they share with others online. By comparison, just 55 percent of users ages 50 to 64 have done so.

Compared with older users, young adults are not only the most attentive to customizing their privacy settings and limiting what they share on their profiles, but they are also generally less trusting of the sites that host their content.

When asked how much of the time they think they can trust social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, 28 percent of social networking site users ages 18 to 29 say “never.” By comparison, 19 percent of users ages 30 to 49 and 14 percent of those ages 50 to 64 say they never trust the sites.

See all the findings

Is the iPad Really a PC?

"The iPad is a new kind of PC, argues Sarah Rotman Epps, Forrester Research analyst. If so, it might be said to be so in the same way that a high-end smartphone also is a PC, which is to say an iPad both "is" and "isn't" a PC.

The iPad’s features don’t line up with what consumers think they want. The top features that consumers say they want in their next PC — DVD drives and burners, CD drives and burners,
and Webcams — are all absent from the iPad.

Click on the image for a larger view.

The features that the iPad does have, such as a touchscreen, are lower on the list of features buyers say they are looking for.

Two-thirds of U.S. online consumers say they want a DVD drive in their next PC, while only 22 percent want a touchscreen. This doesn’t mean that consumers won’t buy the iPad without these features, but it does mean that Apple will need to teach consumers that they can live without them in the device.

So a question yet to be answered is whether people will figure out "what" the tablet PC is, and how it can be used. Form factor might be important as users try to figure out what a device between a smartphone and a PC looks like, and what it must do to be useful.

Google Adds Dashboard for Mobile Location History

Google has a new beta dashboard for its "Location History" function, which might be useful for people who want to know how they actually behave, rather than how they think they behave, at least from a location perspective. The dashboard, which is private and viewable only by the user, will highlight
location trends.

You might want some detail on trips taken, places visited, or time spent in the house compared to outside it, for example.

The dashboard can be used to review how much time time you have spent at an office location over the last month or year, and whether your patterns are changing, for example.

If you want to know where you stopped on a recent trip, the dashboard can be used to find the answer.

To try out the new dashboard, enable Google Latitude in the background on your phone, turn on Google Location History, and wait a few days (up to a week) to build up enough history for the dashboard to begin showing information.

Facebook Not Completely Set on How It Will Use "Location"

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his firm still is not exactly sure what it is going to do in the geo-location area, yet, and hasn't finished building the application.

Sometimes it is quite refreshing to hear influential CEOs frankly say they aren't completely sure how they will use an important feature, or what the business model might be. Perhaps that is a problem when a CEO "never" seems to have answers about such questions, but it is okay to figure it out and get it right, even if it sometimes takes a while.

Of course, it is less comforting when a firm does not basically have enough current revenue to fund current operations, but that isn't Facebook's problem.

73 Democrats tell FCC to Drop Title II Gambit

73 House Democrats have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission warning the agency not to go forward with its plan to partially reclassify ISPs as common carriers, a move needed to impose net neutrality rules.

'The uncertainty this proposal creates will jeopardize jobs and deter needed investment for years to come,' wrote Texas Congressman Gene Green. 'The significant regulatory impact of reclassifying broadband service is not something that should be taken lightly and should not be done without additional direction from Congress.'"

Common carrier regulation in the U.S. communications business historically has been good for coverage, bad for innovation. It was good for quality but bad for prices.

Whether common carrier regulation would have the same impact on broadband and innovation in the broadband business is the question

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Access for "One Price Across Digital Platforms" Will Come

In a move with likely implications for the evolving Internet access business, The New Yorker will let readers pay once for digital access across the iPad, the Kindle and other platforms, hoping to improve on the current industry practice of charging even subscribers for each edition on each device.

The same sort of thing ultimately will happen in broadband access as well, as users start to experience greater pain paying separately, by the device, by the form of access, by the place for their broadband access services.

Both AT&T and Verizon already have spoken about a future scenario where an authorized user can use wireless and wired broadband access, across multiple devices. Think of it as a sort of family plan for individual users, where the "family" includes all the communications-capable devices a particular user wants to use.

If you think the future will feature communications need for a wide variety of appliances, used across home and mobile enviornments, but with differing usage characteristics, a unified plan makes sense.

Android Music versus iTunes: Table Stakes

There's lots of activity in the mobile music space at the moment. Spotify is preparing to launch in the United States and Nokia is rolling out multiple new "Comes With Music territories. But Google is lijely the most significant of the new entrants.

Not that music stores per se are that big a deal on the revenue front. Of course the music download store has never been the end game. The margins are so small that the a la carte download store only has any value as a means to an end, a way to add a sticky application and increase device value, for example, as well as to provide an e-commerce platform, to a lesser extent.

4G Speeds From T-Mobile

T-Mobile USA is touting its "4G speeds" in the Northeastern United States and other major cities across the country. Some are going to argue at the claim, which is properly made. T-Mobile's HSPA+ network will in face operate at speeds fourth-generation network providers are promising.

Users will not care about which air interface gives them their bandwidth, but they will care about the speed. It's true "4G speed" is not the same thing as "4G network," but only carriers care about such things. Users just want the better performance.

The latest activations are in the New York City metropolitan area, including New Jersey and Long Island, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, Connecticut (Hartford, New Haven, Milford and Stamford) and Providence, R.I.

The faster network already is live in Philadelphia, as well the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Boston and Washington, D.C. are expected to be "lit" in the coming weeks.

Are Millennials A Predictable Part of the Generational Cycle? | Millennial Marketing

That "Millennials" might be different from their parents, but neither generation arguably is so "unique and different" as sometimes might appear. Nearly 20 years ago, William Strauss and Neil Howe wrote “Generations,“ which suggested there is a repeating four-generation pattern in American history.

If at all accurate, Millennials are part of a pattern. Though their common generational experiences mark them as different from the three preceding generations in the cycle, the cycle will repeat, with Millennials in turn succeeded by a generation with different, but broadly predictable outlooks.

Sometimes we mistake the forest for the trees, focusing on how much "technology" is simply a background factor for Millennials. What we overlook is the pattern that suggests why their values and views are different from that of their parents, but also that those values are part of an old pattern.

If so, yet another turn is coming.

Walmart drops price of iPhone 3GS to $97

Handset price is getting to be a non-issue for users who want to buy an Apple iPhone. With the announcement of the next-generation iPhone just weeks away, Walmart has lowered the price of the soon-to-be-replaced 16GB iPhone 3GS to just $97, when purchased with a two-year contract.

Will Apple "Blow Google Out of the Water?"

Google used the occasion of its developer conference to jab Apple. Will Apple take the opportunity at its June 7 meeting to jab back? Most people think it likely will.

"If Google didn't act, we face a draconian future," said Goolge VP Vic Gundotra at Google's recent developer meeting. "One man, one company, one device would control our future," said Gundotra.

At its upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple is expected to detail its new iPhone operating system, OS 4.

Twitter Bans 3rd-Party Ads

Twitter has is banning third-party advertisements on its site, in a move to control its monetization of the micro-blogging service, and perhaps also to protect users from perceived ad spamming.

The Twitter "Promoted Tweets" platform poses some risks of user annoyance, but might arguably provoke much more irritation if the appropriateness of the promoted messages is not controlled.

As mobile advertising starts to become a more important and bigger revenue stream, control of inventory is going to become a bigger issue, as it always does for ad-supported media.

BBC Looks To Ban Over the Top Use of Its Content

The BBC, saying it seeks to maintain its brand, says it does not want to make its programs available to third parties for VOD distribution on an unbundled basis. In part, that is one more example of how the debate over content pay walls is being played out, and also an example of the broader ways in which the battle between open and closed ecosystems likewise has heated up.

AT&T Launches Free Wi-Fi In Times Square

AT&T is launching a free wi-fi network for its customers in New York City's Times Square, obviously designed to take a load off the 3G network.

The move illustrates both the importance of wireless offload strategies as well as a changing role for fixed-line networks, which are assuming much more importance as mobile video consumption increases.

That might provide small comfort to fixed-line service providers, but comfort nevertheless. The fundamental answer for why broadband fixed line networks will remain relevant in a market that emphasizes mobile service has to do with superior bandwidth.

Fixed lines will remain the "best" way to deliver huge quantities of video to end users, in many venues, including both the linear multi-channel video and over-the-top Internet modes.

Mobile Passed Fixed for Voice in 2000, But Fixed Voice Lines Continue to Grow

You might not be especially surprised that wireless accounts in service surpassed fixed phone lines in Japan, Korea and Finland back in 2000, meaning it has been a decade since a fixed line was the preferred way of using "voice" in the consumer, and part of the business market.

(Click image for larger view)

You might not realize 2000 also was the year that wireless accounts surpassed fixed lines for voice in the U.S. market as well. At the beginning of 2010 there were 2.4 wireless lines in service for every fixed voice line, about 276 million wireless lines compared to about 114 million fixed voice lines.

That said, people often overlook the fact that fixed voice lines in service actually have grown since 2000, from about 100 million lines, up to 114 million lines. The confusion typically is driven by the decline of telco market share compared primarily to the growth of cable operator-supplied lines.

In Japan, cellular phone service was first introduced in 1979. The number of mobile ubscribers exceeded that of fixed phones late 2000.

In Korea, cellular phone service was first introduced in 1984. In 2000, the number of
subscribers exceeded that of fixed telephony.

Finland was the first country to introduce the digital GSM standard in 1992. Mobile revenue surpassed fixed line revenue in 1997.

58% of All U.S. Web Users Visit Social Networking Sites

As popular as social networking has proven to be--eMarketer now says 58 percent of U.S. Internet users visit a social networking site at least once a month--there have been questions about Facebook's business model. The answer typically has been that "a model will be found," as improbably as was the case for Google before it.

Advertising and e-commerce have been the most-frequent answers to the question of how any widely-used "free to use" application can support itself over time. And despite some "privacy" stumbles of late, Facebook continues to explore ways to position itself as an advertising venue, despite some obstacles, related in part to fragmented use of the service (there is no single "home page" everybody goes to, which would create a huge venue for display ads) and the suitability of the content environment (YouTube has the same basic problem).

Still, the rule in media is that whenever a sufficient number of "eyeballs" can be aggregated, advertising becomes viable.

eMarketer estimates that 57.5 percent of Internet users, or 127 million people, will use a social network at least once a month in 2010. That's eyeballs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Social Networking and Brand Building: B2C Works Better than B2B

The top 10 brands on Facebook, according to number of fans suggests a couple of obvious "lessons" for marketers. All of the top-10 brands are in the consumer space, and all tend to have "enterprise" size marketing budgets. Facebook itself is in the top position, but ignoring that, the list looks like:

#2 Starbucks 7,266,488 Fans
#3 Coca-Cola 5,567,046 Fans
#4 YouTube 5,114,322 Fans
#5 Red Bull 3,727,372 Fans
#6 Disney 3,488,088 Fans
#7 Victoria’s Secret 3,470,724 Fans
#8 Converse 2,749,691 Fans
#9 McDonald’s 2,270,109 Fans
#10 H&M 2,062,377 Fans
#11 MTV 1,924,744 Fans"

In the business-to-business space, and especially for any firm that is small or mid-sized, Twitter probably is a better bet.

CEOs, Managers Using Social Media for Work

You might be surprised to learn that social media is being actively used by business managers, including CEOs, to keep track of news and conduct research, in addition to keeping up with friends.

In a recent survey of 337 social media users in North America and Europe, about 84 percent of social media users indicated they use it to keep up to date on news, while 78 percent also indicated they use social media "to get ideas to help me in my job," says Nigel Fenwick, Forrester Research analyst.

2010: A Turning Point for Telecom?

Watch the Webinar

Some years in telecommunications are pivotal: 1934, 1982, 1996 and 2000, for example, set into motion huge changes that fundamentally shaped the entire industry in transformative ways. Will 2010 prove to be a pivotal year? It might be. One can easily foresee that regulatory frameworks such as "network neutrality" and the "national broadband plan," could affect business models for years to come.

But those are not the only changes. There are new 4G wireless networks coming on line that could, for the first time, drive mobile broadband substitution as smartphone penetration grows from 15% to 50%. Beyond that, questions linger on how consumer behavior was shaped by the "great recession" and if these changes in buying behavior are permanent.

This webinar takes a look at all those questions and discuss possible implications. When the regulatory environment, business models, fundamental technologies and end user demand curves all at change at once, transformative and historical changes are likely.

Social Networking is a Time Waster, Telecommuters Report

Mobile or remote access to email still tops the list of perceived productivity-enhancing tools telecommuters have access to, a survey by iPass finds.

About 85 percent said remote email access enhanced productivity, eclipsing even telephone access, at 75 percent. About 67 percent suggested text messaging and 66 percent reported that instant messaging boosted productivity.

Surprisingly, but maybe not for millions of people who routinely must attend lots of meetings, just 54 percent of mobile workers said meetings enhanced their productivity, while just 48 percent said travel was productivity enhancing. The former report suggests many meetings actually impede people getting their work done, while the latter finding probably only confirms that travel is a time-consuming activity that likewise prevents people from getting more work done.

And despite its popularity, 78 percent of mobile employees report that social media is a drain on their work productivity, as many suspect. Much social networking is a diversion from work, not an enabler of work.

Telecommuters Work Longer Hours, iPass Finds

Do you think you and your co-workers are the only people working much-longer hours than you used to? You are not alone. Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the average employee workday at 8.8 hours in 2008, iPass finds after analyzing its data that the average workday for mobile workers was one hour longer, closer to 10 hours a day.

About 34 percent of survey respondents say they work 55 hours or more a week, or at least 11 hours a day. Such workers also telecommute more frequently than the other segments. About eight percent report they are "always" working.

About 62 percent telecommuted at least one day a week, for example. Perhaps not surprisingly, 13 percent they did see a negative impact on their work-life balance.

About 47 percent of respondents say they work 45 to 55 hours a week; in line with modern workday averages.

About 18 percent of respondents report working 40 or fewer hours a week, are most likely to go into the office every day, and less likely to telecommute.

In fact, 19 percent did not telecommute at all.

The surveys suggest, contrary to what some employers seem to believe, that in-office workers spend less time working than workers who are allowed to telecommute, though it is likely the findings are skewed to the extent that telecommuting works best for employees whose jobs are "outcomes" related and are relatively easy to measure.

Skype Expects 1 billion Users by 2015

Skype Technologies expects it will reach one billion registered users, nearly double its current registered user base, by 2015, and half those customers were be business users, says David Gurle, Skype VP.

Business customers will bring in 20 percent to 30 percent more revenue on average than consumers, Gurle predicts.

Since 2009 revenue was $716 million with a bit more than half a billion accounts, if accounts nearly double to about a billion, then Skype income could hit the $1.5 billion level in 2015.

Those figures tell quite a story about the demise of the legacy voice business, which had been underpinned by high-margin international calling and widespread use of fixed lines for voice. In 2000, for example U.S. carriers alone billed $15 billion in international voice revenues. By 2007, U.S. carriers bill about $6.5 billion in international voice, according to Federal Communications Commission data.

Skype now represents 12 percent of international long distance traffic, and earns $716 million. It would be fair to suggest that, 10 years ago, 12 percent of itnernational long distance would have been worth as much as two orders of magnitude more gross revenue.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bandwidth Implications of Online Video

It remains to be seen whether more use of Internet delivery for today's video entertainment programming is a good thing for access providers, whatever it may mean for other contributors to the video ecosystem.

The reason is the sheer cost impact of supplying enough bandwidth to support even a part of today's viewing requirements.

Video, in fact, is the chief reason there is a growing gap between ISP revenue from providing access services and the revenue that can be earned by providing such access (click image for larger view).
To be sure, multiple approaches will be taken to better match demand and supply. Price increases, retail price plans better tailored to actual consumption, wireless offload to fixed networks, signal compression and other efforts are likely.

Does Intense Price Competition Drive U.S. Wireless Industry Concentration?

Can price and other forms of competition beneficial for users still occur when markets are highly concentrated? Yes, say Jerry B. Duvall and George S. Ford of the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies. The question now matters, once again, as the Federal Communications Commission seems to be hinting it thinks the U.S. wireless market is growing unduly concentrated.

The important observation is that, in some markets, even high levels of supplier concentration do not preclude important, even robust levels of competition, on price, quality and other dimensions.

When analyzing levels of competition in a market, economists often, and rationally,  infer it from the level of industry concentration, where higher levels of concentration indicate the presence of market power. But industry concentration is related to the size of a market as well as high sunk costs or intense price competition, or some combination.

High industry concentration can be the result of a limited market or high fixed costs, as for a water, electricity or wastewater system, for example, all cases where fixed costs are so that facilities-based competition is not possible.

In some other markets, high capital investment requirements can create huge barriers to entry. Where that barrier exists, even when competition increases because of new entrants in a market, market concentration could still increase, even in the face of price competition. Market concentration appears to reach a lower bound, despite continuing growth in the size of the market.

It is possible that the apparent lower bound on market concentration could reflect economic and technological constraints that continuing growth in the number of competitors will not, and cannot, affect. In other words, some markets might always feature few competitors, for logical reasons. Few today would agree that telecommunications is a natural monopoly. But neither would many agree that the number of facilities-based contestants can be a large number.

The video entertainment market is less price competitive than the broadband access, fixed voice or wireless markets, but perhaps not because the number of competitors is notably less.

The implication is that telecommunications market structure will always be relatively concentrated compared to industries where entry does not require substantial upfront capital costs.

The relationship between the number of firms and market power, where market power is defined as the ability of firms to price above marginal cost, implies that that some communications firms will now, and in the future, possess some degree of market power, Duvall and Ford say. Competition will not be "perfect," but rather workable.

Still, there is an important observation: tthe more intense is price competition the higher is industry concentration. The typical view of competition has price competition increasing with declines in industry concentration. In other words, the more firms in a market, the more “competitive” that market is.

The implication is that high concentration can be the result of intense price competition, rather than market defects.

In the summer of 2000, the proposed merger of MCI-WorldCom and Sprint was abandoned due to the
challenge of the merger by antitrust authorities. In retrospect, one can note that faulty conclusions were drawn from incomplete analysis. Market power in the long distance industry actually was illusory. Even strong industry concentration did not actually imply serious market power, as price competition, for example, was intense.

The obvious implication is that high levels of wireless industry concentration do not preclude or foreclose robust levels of competition. In fact, robust competition causes industry concentration. See, for example.

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